WELCOMING THE DARKNESS


As I write this, in a quiet, old farmhouse in the west of Ireland, I can almost hear the echo of voices from the family who used to live here long ago.  Behind my house is a large barn, and other buildings from the old dairy farm.  Once upon a time, this was a busy, bustling home, even in the dead of winter.  Now, all the cows are gone and, in the winter silence beyond the barn, I feed the wild creatures (foxes, rabbits, birds) that dairy farmer would have shot. 

Beyond lies the quiet lake and, further in the distance, the Connamara mountains loom big and blue with a sprinkling of snow on top.  The weather here is not (usually) as cold as in many parts of the U.S., but the sun does slide across the sky, almost horizontally, at this time of year, keeping the days very short indeed.  By 4 p.m., the early twilight is settling over this old place like a blanket, and it’s time to put on the kettle and add more turf to the fire. 

It’s the dark of the year, and it can be a really depressing time of year.  I have found that it helps to look at the season through the eyes of ancient peoples.  Long ago, I suspect people had little time for depression.  There was just too much to get done in too few hours of daylight!  For Druids, in particular, this dark quiet of the year symbolized the darkness of the womb, where the personality/the self began to take form.  It was a most important time – the ‘fallow’ period – a time to rest and nurture the ‘seeds’ of creative thought.
Winter Solstice, birth of the Sun, at Newgrange
At the winter solstice (this year on the 22nd of December), tightly closed seeds sleep inside all of us.  But when the sun rises on the 22nd, the time of awakening will begin.  Each day will grow longer, with one additional minute of light, then two minutes, then three, and so on.  The seed within us unfurls and blossoms to a full flower by the summer solstice. 
Now is the time, amid all the busy Christmas preparations, to follow nature and take some time to tune into the deep, dark womb of the year’s midnight – to really feel and enjoy this quiet interval.  Failure to do so usually results in colds and flu and illnesses that force us to take a quiet interval.  It’s the best time to look back over whatever we’ve accomplished and learned in the past year and evaluate how we wish to proceed.  It’s also the absolute best time to fertilize that little seed that waits in the darkness, with plans and goals that will blossom in the coming year. 
This time of year brings to mind another custom inherited from the Druids.  Mistletoe was considered very sacred, as it was used to heal many things, especially heart conditions.  When you think of it that way, the kissing-under-the-mistletoe custom, has much greater meaning.  If your heart is involved, a kiss always means more! 

As the sun sets on another winter’s day, I wish you all a nurturing Solstice (with plenty of mistletoe kisses!) and a Nollaig Shona (Happy Christmas)! 

HAPPY EPONALIA!

The ancient Celts and their Druids worshipped over 300 deities.  (Like Carrie Bradshaw and her shoes, they could never have too many.)  Epona is the Horse Goddess, from whom the word ‘pony’ is derived.  She became the only Celtic deity to be worshipped in Rome, and her feast day, Eponalia, is next Sunday, the 18th of December. 
Ancient peoples from the west of Ireland, to as far east as Anatolia (Turkey), from the Danube River to Yugoslavia, down to Rome and even North Africa, worshipped the Horse Goddess.  Her Facebook fan page would have broken world records. 
Recently, I read a book on Celtic Myth written by a woman who lives in Texas.  She wrote that the Irish version of the Goddess Epona was named ‘Mare’ and that she was the bringer of bad dreams (night-mares). 

I love the books written about Celtic Mythology by people who’ve only visited Ireland or Scotland or Wales once or twice in their lives.  They frequently says things like, ‘Up until the beginning of the 20th Century, Irish people used to [do some wacky thing or other], carrying out this age-old custom.’  Frequently, nobody – including historians who have lived in and researched this Celtic country all their lives – has ever heard or read of said ‘age-old custom’.  The Texas woman who wrote that book was probably the victim of some old geezer who enjoyed dousing her with a large bucket of blarney. 

There is no Irish Goddess named ‘Mare.’  But there is a very famous one named Macha and she was associated with war, HORSES, sovereignty, and the site of the prehistoric fort of Emain Macha (which was named after her), near present-day Armagh in Northern Ireland.   And, because one can never have too many, the Irish mythological figure of Ếtain, also associated with Emain Macha, was considered a horse goddess, in a later historical period. 
 Epona was worshiped in England as well, where Bronze Age people painstakingly created the Uffington Horse.  The horse goddess was also known as “Rigantona” or “Rig Antonia,” which means “Great Queen.”  Some historians believe that the legend of Lady Godiva is directly related to Epona and other ancient fertility rituals, such as the mating of the High King with the white mare (but that’s another post in itself).  In Wales, the goddess Rhiannon, whose worship occurred at a much later point in time, was strongly associated with Epona. 
Epona was known by a variety of other names, which changed according to the language and myth of each particular region.  But no matter what she was called, her image remained similar.  She appeared as a woman with very long hair who was riding sidesaddle upon a white mare, or as a long-haired woman, lying naked on a white mare. 

Celtic Druids had totem animals, much like Native Americans.  The horse, and the white horse in particular, was a powerful totem, symbolising the Goddess herself, the land and journeying (both physical and spiritual).  The horse goddess was associated with the life cycle of birth-death-afterlife-rebirth, and hence, sexuality and the fertility of humans and the earth itself.  In this way, the horse and the Horse Goddess, could help humans transcend the limitations of mortality. 

With all this in mind, I plan to go visit my neighbour horses (Connemara ponies) at the lakeside and offer them a bucketful of carrots and apples so we can celebrate this feast day in style. 

Best wishes for a safe and happy Eponalia to you and yours!

GATHERING INSPIRATION FROM WEIRD PLACES


True Confessions:  I did not reach my Nano goal last month, although I did write about two-thirds of my novel, and I believe it’s a useable draft (not just words for words’ sake).  You know how you can get in that ‘groove’ and the words come like water from a faucet, too fast to get them all down?  Yeah, I love that place.  And I haven’t been there in weeks.  I am writing each day, but it’s a wimpy word count. 

My writing partners (bless them) tell me the well has run dry and I must go out and replenish the muse.  Mary and Tammy both said they sort of make up stories in their heads to put themselves to sleep, and this helps when their muse is sluggish. 

So, I’m remembering a true story of a place just south of here that I visited not long ago.  Here’s hoping it will help me get back in the ‘groove,’ and in case any of the rest of you are in a post-Nano slump, I hope this story will inspire you too.  If you have Loreena McKennett’s cd, ‘The Book of Secrets,’ you might want to play track 3, ‘Skellig’ for atmospheric background while you read this.

Way out in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of County Kerry, lie two lonely rock islands, shaped like pyramids.  The larger of the two, Skellig Michael, was a hermitage site founded by monks in the 7th Century.  Imagine, if you will, a small group of men wearing long dresses (monks), rowing tiny animal-skin-covered boats nine miles out into the ever-tempestuous sea and somehow climbing a jagged, vertical rock 250 meters to the top.  Then, they would have had to hollow out stones to collect drinking water (those stones are still there today), climb down the 250 meters to catch fish to eat, chisel away rocks and stack them to create their small clochans (dwelling huts). 

Today, there are only a handful of motorized passenger skiffs that will risk the trip out to Skellig Michael and ONLY if the sea is fine and quiet.  It’s a harrowing journey at the best of times.  On the sunny summer day when I made the journey, our boat was tossed about by near 20-foot-waves for nearly an hour.  I was certain it was going to capsize.  Luckily, it didn’t.  When our boat was finally close enough so that I could really see the island, it was actually glowing in the sunlight.  An overwhelming feeling of . . . something – I’m still not sure what – came over me and I began to cry. 

Some say this rock is part of a layline that connects with sacred energy sites in England and France.  After visiting the site in 1910, George Bernard Shaw wrote, ‘An incredible, impossible, mad place. I tell you the thing does not belong to any world that you and I have lived and worked in; it is part of our dream world.’ 

When our boat landed, I climbed the near-vertical slope, huffing and puffing, to the top of the rock.  A man climbing near me stopped to catch his breath.  He shook his head and said, ‘Oh, these lads were not the full shilling.’  I panted back, ‘Truer words were never spoken.’  In fact, in recent years, several tourists have died trying to make this climb.  It does leave one scratching one’s head, wondering why the monks would want to do this. 

On the way to the top, the rock was carpeted with the usual florescent green associated with Ireland, and scattered with a beautiful array of tiny wildflowers.  Here and there, nesting puffins – adorable little birds that purr like cats – moved closer to get a better look at me.  Males and females take turns guarding their nests and they seem to get board with their duties and so checked out this passing human with avid curiosity. 
At the top of the many, many steps the monks chiselled into the Devonian sandstone that sparkles with sedimentary quartz, lies a colony of clochans and a tiny church.  The monks brought seaweed and soil from the mainland and made gardens and even bannocks (or flatbread).  The views from every angle are amazing and create a feeling of limitless space.  Needless to say, the energy in this place throbs with something magical, spiritual . . . indefinable. 

Sitting alone at the top of this rock and listening to the wind, is indeed a mesmerizing and humbling spiritual experience.  Irish monks were never persecuted like Roman Christian monks.  Since their Roman brethren were being crucified, boiled in oil and fed to lions, the Irish monks felt they too should experience some sort of sacrifice.  So they became ‘green martyrs,’ exiling themselves to remote outposts like this one, in an effort to bring themselves closer to the essence of God. 

So, maybe those ancient monks were several shades of crazy, but I can’t help thinking:  If they could do ALL that, then I should be able to write at least one chapter today. 

Until next week,
Deep Peace of the Sacred Grove to You


13th Moon of Completion


Last Friday was the new moon – the Elder Moon – according to the ancient Celtic Tree Calendar.  This is the 13th moon of the year and it is traditionally the time to say ‘thank you’ and give back to the Earth.  It is also the time of completion and ‘letting go.’ 
The Elder tree is one of the most useful for ailments contracted at this time of year.  No doubt, this would have something to do with why ancient peoples named this month after the tree.  Its black berries can be boiled to make a syrup which is a powerful remedy against respiratory congestion and coughs.  Raw, these same berries are poisonous and, in ancient times, they might have been fed to an ‘elder’ human to speed up a slow and painful death.  The Elder tree in my garden has contributed some of its flowers on several occasions so that I might make a tea, rich in Vitamin C, which has helped alleviate attacks of hay fever. 

The ancient Celtic calendar can be confusing by our current standards, but at the same time, it makes perfect sense.  Samhain (November 1st) is the Celtic New Year, and, as the druids believed that death was the beginning of a new life cycle (after all, you must die before you can be reborn), so is November/December the death of the year and the beginning of a new cycle.  Seeds sleep beneath the earth, waiting to be reawakened. 
In Ireland, the Elder tree is sometimes called ‘The Old Woman’ and it should always be treated with respect.  There are quite a few stories and legends about people who cut elder trees without asking permission, and they paid the ultimate price.  The tree rejuvenates itself from shoots that grow vigorously from its base.  In this way, it has come to symbolise life itself, by appearing immortal. 
This moon’s lesson is one of patience, seeing tasks through to completion, tying up loose ends, and fulfilling pledges.  For those of us who have been Nano-ing all month, now through the new moon at the end of December, is the perfect time to complete our projects.  Indeed, for anyone who has anything significant to complete, now is the time to do it!  The Earth, the stars, the very juncture of the seasons, are all with us, supporting us on our journey to its end . . . and beyond. 

Until next week, 
Deep Peace of the Sacred Grove to You.

IRELAND ELECTS WRITER FOR PRESIDENT!

Say what you will about our ravaged economy, any country who elects a poet for president can’t be all bad. 

While more than a few U.S. Presidents have written books, they all did so after being elected.  Michael D. Higgins, the newly elected president of Ireland, has published several books (of poetry), and gifted me with copies, long before he was elected. 

Political parties aside, there is a feeling of long-term solidarity in this latest choice made by the people of this old island.  If we were still living in a druid society (and some of us are!), it would be only natural for a filí to be considered a lawgiver/poet/magician.  Filí was the ancient class of druid poets and they were the most revered class, for they could work magic with their words.  Primarily, they held the knowledge of the complete history of their tribe and, in many cases, the history of Ireland in general.  As knowledge was considered sacred, nothing was written down.  EVERYTHING had to be held in the head, meaning that a poet memorised vast amounts of information and recited it whenever the occasion arose.  Naturally, if you have a lot of facts to memorise, it’s easier if you can make a rhyme out of it! 

More so than any other culture or society in the history of the world, ancient Ireland accorded poets the most supreme rank available.  Poets paid no taxes and were exempt from military service. They had a freedom of movement to cross political borders denied even kings, and wherever they travelled they were entitled to the best lodging.  

Aras an Uachtaráin, Irish President’s Residence

In the filí tradition, poetry, music (harp playing), mnemonics, improvisation, quick wit, creative hyperbole and clever kenning were necessary attributes.  All things a modern politician might require.  Above all, though, was the great importance the ancient culture placed on a filí’s ability to pass on stories and accurate information to the next generations, without changing facts.  Now, THAT is a talent all politicians could acquire.  

FINDING A NEW MUSE - Guest Post

Today’s post comes from a special guest, Theresa Jensen.  I met Theresa in 2004, at a faerie workshop in a beautiful redwood forest near Ben Lomond, California.  She’s one of those quiet, centred people who’s inner peacefulness is inspiring to those around her.  She’s been a practicing Druid for nine years and is a member of the Diore Brighid Seed Group near Oakland, California.  She’s also a member of OBOD and the British Druid Order.  She’s been married for 38 years and has 4 children and 8 grandchildren.  And if that’s not enough, her hobbies are making stained glass, music and, of course, reading! 

Recently, I listened to a lecture on Plato, where it was discussed that Plato introduced the term “psyche” which means “soul.”  Plato said that the human soul is separate from the body and that the soul would prefer not to be bound to it.  

I totally get that. 

I found Plato’s concept of the soul interesting for a couple of reasons. 

Everything alive has a soul.  In my mind, it follows that trees, grass, cows, chickens, anything that is alive is inhabited by a psyche, or soul.  Of course, Plato was not concerned with non-human issues that I know of.   I’m sure that somewhere during Plato’s time on Mother Earth there were Druid-like persons – Ageless Druids – that were very much concerned with, and communed with, non-human souls.  

As modern Druids, we strive for Awen, that state of being that causes our soul to achieve its fullest, happiest form.  Our aim is to honor the living beings inhabiting Mother Earth along side us.  In doing this, we are unconsciously striving to bring happiness to them.  How much better can that be?

I’m not into philosophy, but this little bit of information validated my chosen path - Druidry, or if you prefer, Druidcraft.

Why am I a Druid?

I feel the wind as it blows across my face.  The air caresses me like a gentle lover.  I am inspired to be giving and creative.  I honor the Air.  

As I shower, the water cleanses me, encompassing me with warm emotion and gratitude for its life-giving sustenance.  I honor the Water.

I face the warmth of the sun, pure energy warming me.  Cooking on a fire, appreciating that without flame many trees would die, many people would freeze.  Fire is indeed life-giving.  I honor the Fire.

Walking barefoot in the dirt, I imagine myself attached like a root, feeling the earth's energy feel me.  All things come from our mother, without exception.  I honor the Earth.

Druidry is something that defines me. 

A few years ago, my granddaughter asked me what was the point of believing as I do.  The answer - I would be lying to myself if I denied it.  I have to be a part of the ritual - that exercise that allows us to officially recognize our mother, to honor her through the various gods and goddesses that are a part of her.

It's not always easy, but it’s worth it.  When life gets in the way, and you're loaded with the daily drama of making it in the world, it's convenient to ignore the care and feeding of your soul.  On the other hand, when I meet with my seed group – my druid family – I feel amazingly better, more energized. 

So what’s the bottom line?  Attending the lecture about Plato opened up a new channel of thinking and considering for me.  You might even say, it brought a new muse into my life.  



HAPPY SAMHAIN ! Part 2


Tonight, I am looking forward to a visit with my mom.  She hasn’t been on this planet for quite some time, but we do keep in touch and it is always a pleasant surprise when she visits.  That being said, she usually comes when I least expect it, tonight may or may not be the right time.  Nevertheless, I will prepare an ‘ancestor feast,’ as I do every year.  Late in the evening, I put out my parent’s favourite treats:  vanilla ice cream for my mom and a beer for my dad.  Just to let them know they are welcome for a little celebration.  Then, I light candles and a nice incense, turn off the lights, talk to them (whether I feel their presence or not) and meditate. 

The first time my mom came to visit in spirit form was about a week after she ‘died.’  I missed her terribly and every night I sat in a darkened room in front of a candle and talked to her, just as I had during our phone conversations when she was alive.  I was afraid she wouldn’t come at all, in spite of our agreement.  Maybe when you die, you just die and there is nothing else.  That thought was devastating. 

My mom had been an excellent seamstress and, when she was alive, every time she came to visit me, she would mend some piece of clothing I owned (I’m hopeless with a needle and thread).  On this night, still miserable that I hadn’t heard from her, I told her about a beautiful cape a seamstress had made for me.  It happened to be hanging outside the closet and I looked at it as I spoke to her.  There were originally three frog closures on the cape, but the third one had been loose and the last time I wore it, it had fallen off.  A friend and I had looked everywhere for the missing frog, but could not find it. 

After I finished talking to mom (without any response), I blew out the candle and went to bed.  The next morning, when I went to put the cape away, I noticed one, two, THREE frog closures securely sewn on the cape!  For days after, I cried tears of gratitude and amazement.  Then I called the friend who’d helped me search for the missing frog.  “Yes,” she said, “I remember.  There were only two closures on that cape.  We looked everywhere for the third one.” 
the 3 frogs

There have been numerous visits since then.  Once or twice, I’ve actually seen her.  Her visits are always magical; they have made me laugh and cry and everything in between.  They’re kind of like ectoplasmic Hallmark cards.  My mom is nothing if not creative and humorous. 

Even more surprising are those visits from total strangers, many of whom have given me their stories. 

One day, while sitting at the computer writing my first novel, I felt quite strongly that someone was standing behind my right shoulder. The person did not speak, but the air was heavy with their presence.

I was writing about an old fisherman, making things up as I went along because I know next to nothing about fishing, manoeuvring boats, nets or even which fish are prevalent in the area I was writing about. I’d never even visited the remote area of Co. Clare I was writing about!  I stopped abruptly, unable to think of another Irish expletive, circa 1847.  I couldn’t use the same ones over again.  Suddenly, from behind my right shoulder, a gravelly male voice shouted, “Begob!”  I jumped and looked behind me, but of course, there was no one there.  I typed, “Begob,” not even sure how to spell it, and then continued writing.
The next day, weary of my own ignorance, I went to the library to begin research. I chose a book from the shelf that was fiction, but at least it was the same time period as my story.  I opened the book to an arbitrary spot in the middle and the first word that leapt off the page at me was: “Begob!”  I gasped out loud, the book slipped from my hands and hit the floor with a thud.  Other people in the library stared at me.  When I opened the book again, I couldn’t find the same page or the word until I took it home and read the whole thing.  Sure enough, it was there in print.  “Begob!” Damn!  And I spelled it right too! 

Later, after loads of research, I was to find out that much of what I had written in this historical fiction novel was indeed fact.  In one instance, I even got an old man’s last name right.  Just lucky guesses?  Or were spirits really there, dictating to me in some fashion? 

I believe that we are all being visited by spirits.  We may not realize it, but they are there, standing next to us, whispering stories to us, touching our lives with their after lives. 

If you crave a visit from an ancestor this evening, I would recommend this powerful meditation:
Turn off the lights, light a white candle and stare at the flame for a minute.  Then close your eyes and see that flame become a fire.  Someone is sitting before the fire.  It is your ancestor.  It may or may not be one that you recognise.  Notice what he or she looks like and say hello.  Now, sit beside him or her and watch the flames.  If you wish, ask your ancestor a question and wait to hear the answer.  If you do not have a question to ask or do not hear a verbal answer, hold out your hand and allow your ancestor to give you an object.  What does the object you receive mean to you?  Stay by the fire and share whatever you will or just keep quiet and listen.  When you are finished, say ‘thank you’ and offer a hug or other gesture if appropriate. 

This meditation is wonderful if there is someone you’re longing to speak to, but it can be particularly useful if there is someone in your past you need to release.  And tonight is the best time to do that.  Who knows, if you’re participating in NaNo, you might even attract someone who can provide a good portion of the 50,000 words you’ll need to finish! 

However you choose to celebrate tonight, here’s wishing you and your ancestors a most joyous holiday!  And please, do share any stories of your own to add to the celebration. 

THE MAGICAL TWILIGHT OF SAMHAIN – Part 1


“This quiet dust was gentlemen and ladies, and lads and girls, was laughter and ability and sighing and frocks and curls.”  - Emily Dickinson

Understanding the Significance
From early times, and still today in Celtic countries, children born between the months of October and November are believed to possess special attributes.  According to the famous seanachie, Eddie Lenihan, they are ‘touched by the faeries.’  That doesn’t mean those of us born in October and November are crazy (necessarily); it means we’re likely to have some sort of psychic ability, especially the ability to see spirits and/or faeries.  I believe everyone has this ability, especially at this time of year, when twilight quickens, shortening the days . . . When the veil between the living and the ‘dead’ gets so thin it’s almost non-existent . . . When, whether we realize it or not, we’re right up close and personal to those who have left their bodies. 

I object to the word ‘dead.’  To me, there is no such thing.  Once we leave our body, our energy merely changes form and moves on.  I’ve had loads of experiences with departed loved ones who send love or do favours, with acquaintances who just stop by, and even with total strangers who’ve helped me write books.  All these experiences have led me to believe that we don’t go far when we leave our bodies.  In fact, we’re just around the corner, so to speak. 

The name of the upcoming holiday of Samhain (pronounced ‘Sow-ihn) comes from two Irish words meaning ‘summer’s end.’  On my calendar, the month after October and before December is referred to as ‘Samhain,’ so its current definition is ‘November.’  But Samhain is really a season of its own, and we’re in the midst of it now. 

Make An Appointment
Years before my mom passed away, we made an agreement.  Whichever one of us was to ‘leave’ first, we’d come back and visit the other and give some idea of what ‘death’ was like.  My mom has kept this agreement, over and over again through the years, visiting and always surprising me in the most amazing ways.  I highly recommend that you make verbal agreements with all your loved ones.  It isn’t necessary, but it makes this process a lot easier for the one who remains in physical form. 

Contact
If you want to contact someone who’s no longer on this planet, sit in a darkened room and light some white candles.  Meditate until you feel centered and calm (with no music, T.V. or distractions).  If you have a specific question, ask it aloud and/or write it on a piece of paper.  Let the candles burn out on their own and go to bed.  In the morning, when you wake up, if the candles are out but have not burned down completely, you should consider that a form of response.   

Responses can come in a variety of ways:  synchronicities, waking dreams, unusual sounds, smells, and most frequently, electrical interruptions.  Most importantly, they probably will not come right away.  It may take hours, days or weeks.  For me, it often takes 24 hours and then there is a seemingly miraculous response.  Next week, I’ll give a couple of examples. 

In the meantime, I would suggest you might want to practice making contact between now and October 31st.  You never know, all sorts of wonderful things may happen.  There is only one constant:  Love will always defy death.  

Pilgrimage to the Eternal Flame

Last week, I went on a mini-pilgrimage to the other side of the country to visit Kildare (in Irish, Cill Dara or church of the oaks).  Appropriate for a druid, don’t you think? 

I went to research Brigid, first a Goddess, then made a saint by the Christians, for another novel I plan to write.  
Bronze Statue of Brigid
Before Brigid was a saint, she was just your typical female trinity deity.  The great Celtic empire of Brigantia (including Britain as well as Spain and France) worshipped her as a goddess of healing, poetry and, mostly notably, flame (and, by extension, smithcraft).    Since the Goddess Brigid was worshipped by many across Europe, it stands to reason that many females were named after her in various dialects (Bríd, Bridie, Bridget, Bree, Biddy).  In later centuries, the name was so frequently given to Irish girls that many who went to America and became maids were automatically called Biddy (no matter what their actual name was). 

One Brigid, born approximately 450 C.E., loved the Goddess Brigid so much that she became part of a female priesthood who kept an eternal flame burning in honor of the Goddess.  Years after her death, this woman was to become a saint.  It’s her life that interests me, for she must have been a remarkable woman – a devout Pegan Christian.  Someone who worshipped the Goddess and the old ways, while extending her worship to include the ‘new’ Christian faith.  In this way, she worked to unite the warring factions around her.  The legends that surround her life are fascinating and mysterious.  
The Holy Well
Last week, while gathering material, I interviewed two ‘Brigidine’ nuns who have been the most recent keepers of the not-quite-eternal flame (which was re-lit in 1993).  I also visited the castle, the holy well (which was holy long before Brigid’s time in the 5th Century) and the wishing tree, where hundreds of pieces of colourful ribbon, cloth and even an old sock, were tied by people making wishes.  For good measure, I lit a candle in the shrine to this Goddess and patron saint of poetry, because I figure she wouldn’t discriminate against a writer of prose.  
The Wishing Tree
It was an enlightening journey, and one I know I’ll make again. 

Until next time, deep peace of the sacred grove to you.  

'Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' - Keats

For some reason, autumn has always been a motivational season for me.  Maybe it’s the crisper air, the ripe blackberries I can pick on my walk around the lake, the vibrant colors in nature.  It could also be that this time of year is when the veil between the worlds gets progressively thinner, allowing us contact with those who have moved beyond the physical plane. 

Whatever the reason, during this 'season of mists,' stories pop out at me from a wide variety of locations . . .
Not far from where I live, there’s a circle of standing stones that was probably erected thousands of years ago.  When I visit this place, I can practically hear beating drums and chanting voices.  The air fairly vibrates with some ancient energy.  It makes me wonder if there are spirits there, longing for their story to be told. 

Spiders are always frantically spinning webs this time of year.  I awoke the other morning to a metropolis of spider webs outside my barn and suddenly had an idea for a very dark, arachnid-dystopian sequel to Charlotte’s Web

A friend gave me a ride into town the other day to pick up my car from the mechanic.  Her car is ancient and inside it was littered with old blankets, dirty clothes, a paint-by-numbers kit, a bicycle tyre, discarded soda cans, various toys and things I couldn’t identify, and every kind of food wrapper imaginable.  Given an afternoon alone in that car, I think I could have come up with a dynamite spec script for a sitcom about a dysfunctional family. 

Once I nearly bought a pair of old shoes from a thrift store that were 3 sizes too small, just because they gave me a great idea for a crime novel. 


This morning, I drove by the local castle that Oliver Cromwell blew a hole threw with one of this canons.  (Clearly, that man wasn’t getting enough fiber in his diet or he just never got laid.)  From a distance, the old building looked sad and beautiful, but as I got closer, a flock of ducks quacked at me incessantly and tried to usher me away from the castle.  I speculate these ducks were Cromwellian soldiers in their past lives and have been reincarnated as water fowl and forced to guard this castle for all the foul deeds they committed in their past lives.  Don’t tell me there’s not a story there.  
An autumnal challenge for anyone who’s interested:  Sit down with paper and a pen in some location you find interesting and try automatic writing, without even looking at the paper.  I’d love to read of anyone else’s favourite places and the stories those places inspire. 

How To See Faeries, Part 3

(continued from last week) 
3.  SELFLESS ACTS  --  Doing at least one selfless act a day and taking joy from it can bring the faeries into your life in surprising ways.  Feed the birds, drive less, save a spider, care for a plant, stop creating so much rubbish . . . there are countless ways to embrace nature.  

The first time I consciously saw faeries as an adult was late one night (and, yes, I was entirely sober), as I was making and wrapping Winter Solstice and Christmas gifts for friends.  I was completely involved with the task and enjoying it when bright bits of coloured light suddenly danced around me and on the gifts.  I stopped what I was doing, suddenly afraid my retinas might be detaching.  Immediately, a strange, crackly voice right next to my ear said, ‘Brush your teeth.’  That made me laugh.  Uncontrollably.  Like, belly-ache, tears-streaming-down-the-face type laughter for at least 5 minutes.  Okay, it was funny, but not that funny. 

About six months later, I was travelling up to Donegal with a friend to do research for a historical novel I was writing.  I met with a sweet little old lady – a retired school teacher with a near genius IQ – who spent an entire day, generously sharing historical knowledge with me.  At one point, the friend I was travelling with asked the elderly lady if she’d ever seen faeries. 

‘Oh they’re around,’ she said. 

‘How do you know?’ my friend asked. 

The woman was quiet for a moment, then she said, ‘Have ye ever had a fit of the giggles for no good reason and found it hard to stop laughing?’   

‘Yeah.’ 

‘That’s them!’ 

There’s a fine line between magic and madness.  Near-hysterical laughter can be a little frightening, like riding an out of control roller coaster.  But if you’re willing to go for that ride, it can also be a wonderful endorphin rush.  

A.G.Manning’s ‘Nature Spirit Invocation’ can prove most helpful when trying to see the folk.  It is best to put out an offering of some sort first.  The traditional offering is cake and ale, but just about anything will do.  It is recommended that you recite this invocation at least three times, preferably outside or in a darkened room by the light of one candle.   Then be still, close your eyes and notice what happens.  You may feel someone playing with your hair, hear objects move or see coloured lights.  Tonight is the dark of the moon, an excellent time to try this . . . 

Little people everywhere,
Your fun and love I seek to share,
Gronkydoddles hear my call,
Leprechauns come one and all.

Leader, Gob, of Gnome and Troll,
Come and share your humour droll.
Neckna and your Undines, bold,
Play with me your games of old.

Paralda, Zephryrs of the air,
Caress me where my skin is bare.
Salamanders let by Djin,
The candle flames come play in. 

Nature spirits of all sort
In friendship let us now cavort.
A child of love for you I’ll be,
My mood is light as you can see. 

And always as you sing and play,
I feel my problems fade away.
Your laughter, love and fun come through
And help me feel alive like you. 

You may well find that your offering of food does not disappear.  It is said that the folk can take what nourishment they need from food without actually eating it.  Then you can throw it out onto the Earth for other creatures to eat.  Do not eat it yourself as this is considered bad manners; like eating food someone else already ate and spit out. 

When you do see nature spirits, if you will treat them as you would any wild creature, with caution and respect, you will be gifted with sight beyond vision and true artistic inspiration.  

HOW TO SEE FAERIES, Part 2

‘Stones have been known to move and trees to speak.’  Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 4

2.  STRENGTHEN YOUR MUSCLE
The brain is a muscle.  We use the left side of that muscle a lot.  In fact, from childhood, we are encouraged to use the left, analytical, problem-solving, fact-finding side of our brains and almost discouraged to use the right, intuitive, feeling, artistic side.  So, naturally (even if you’re a creative type) the left side of that muscle gets stronger, while the right side almost atrophies. 

Have you ever seen something out of the corner of your vision and when you turn to look at it, it’s gone or has changed into an average, stationary object?  If you tell yourself, ‘Oh, that wasn’t what I thought it was,’ then you are strengthening the left side of your brain and weakening the right side. 

Each time I leave the tiny village where I live, this man waves at me: 
If you only see ivy wrapped around a post, you need to do some mental sit-ups. 

In order to see the magical things in life, you must first be willing to see beyond the mundane.  So, for the next 30 days, in addition to yesterday’s exercise, try another one.  This one will strengthen the right side of your brain.  If you think – even if you imagine – that you see a nature spirit, then verbally or physically acknowledge it.  Say ‘hello’, nod a greeting, or perhaps offer a gentle touch.  Be willing to see what your intuition told you was there.  And know that each time you do this, the right side of your brain gets stronger, making you more intuitive, more psychic, more able to see and engage with the folk. 

Do you see them?  . . . . . . . 



Steps 1 and 2 may bring exciting results right away, or it may take time.  Please come back next Monday for step 3.  It can really speed things up!  In the meantime, let me know what you see. 

Happy Blessings to you this Friday on the Autumnal Equinox - a time of Earthly Balance and Harmony, and, until next week . . . 

Deep peace of the sacred grove to you.  

FAERIES – A FIELD GUIDE (How to See Faeries, Part 1)


‘Believing’ in ‘Faeries’ is not the same as the knowledge of the existence of nature spirits.  To ‘believe’ something implies that there is still room for doubt.  To ‘know’ something is a much stronger position.  Druids know and work with elementals and nature spirits on a regular basis.  It can make life quite interesting. 

Numerous books have been written about connecting or working with faeries and elementals (or, to use the old Irish colloquialism, ‘the folk’.)  There are loads of different techniques for seeing these beings, but ultimately, the way you see them will be uniquely and individually yours.  Many people who have come to visit me and/or take my tours have asked questions like, ‘Do you really see them?’ and ‘How can I see them?’  My response is, you probably are seeing them, you’re just not aware. 

So, how does one become aware enough to experience the magical beings around us, and indeed, be blessed by them?  Or, perhaps you are already experiencing nature spirits but would like more regular or stronger contact with them. 

Over the next few posts, I’ll share with you what works for me.  This is the first one devoted to Invoking the Folk. 

1.  BUILD RESPECT
When someone greets you with a smile, extends their hand and says, ‘I’m so happy to meet you,’ it kind of makes you happy to meet them too, doesn’t it?  Whereas, if someone were to stare right through you and say, ‘I’m not sure you exist.  You could just be a figment of my imagination,’ wouldn’t that put you off a bit? 

My neighbour, an elderly farmer’s wife, has an adorable 5-year-old granddaughter who likes to come over and visit me.  Once, when the child didn’t want to go home to bed, I whispered to her that if she was good and went to sleep with happy thoughts, the faeries and angels would bring her a wonderful bit of magic the following day.  She agreed to go to bed then and I asked her to be sure to come round the next day and tell me what magic the faeries had brought. 

The following day, her grandmother told me the child had bad dreams during the night.  ‘I think it’s because you mentioned (she looked around in a rather frightened way and then whispered) faeries.’  But the child looked completely happy, playing in the garden among the flowers and trees. 

Denial and ignorance score you no points with the folk.  Therefore, the first step toward ‘seeing’ anyone is to treat all creatures, plants, beings, even rocks (for these are the bones of the Earth), with respect.  Consciously endeavour to show consideration for ALL those around you, even those you may not fully see, for at least 30 days and it will stimulate the chemical synapses in your brain that underlie perception and thought. 

Please visit again tomorrow for the second step in the process. 

Until then, deep peace of the sacred grove to you.